Crete, at 3,220 square miles, is the largest of all the Greek islands and is a very popular travel destination. As the southernmost significant island in Greece, Crete borders the climactic zones of both the Mediterranean and that of North Africa. The weather is temperate year round, with summer being the busiest time in its tourism cycle. The chain of mountains running across the country, and the many notable Crete beaches make for an impressive mix of landscapes that seem to inspire romantic feelings in the heart of visitors. Crete is an extraordinary place where the past meets the present, and is understandably a popular choice of residence for both Greeks and expatriates. Crete is extremely accessible by way of air and sea, and a number of Greece vacation packages service the island. While the northern coast of Greece handles a large chunk of the tourism industry, the rugged coastline in the south offers a number of isolated beaches and coves along its captivating stretch. Further inland, olive tree groves define much of the countryside, and Crete is known for producing high-quality olive oil.
Ancient Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization,
which is often credited as the first real cradle of civilization.
Although excavations show ancient Crete inhabitants dating
as far back as 6000 BC, the Minoan era proves as the most
significant starting point in the island’s history.
The Minoans cultivated both the arts and sciences as they
formed their Mediterranean naval empire. From 2600-1100
BC, the Minoans would thrive at Crete, and there eventual
demise was likely the result of punishing tidal waves
that were generated by a large volcanic eruption on the
island of Santorini.
Weakened and all but washed out, the Minoans would be
replaced with subsequent invasions by the Achaeans and
the Dorians. The Dorians would remain a fixture
on the island and characterize ancient Crete roughly from
1100-67 BC, until the Roman Empire occupation began.
During its time as part of the Roman Empire, and eventually
the Byzantine Empire, Crete was minimally significant,
and in 824 AD it would fall into Arab control. Arab
domination would not last long however, and in 961 Crete
would again join the Byzantine Empire. In 1204,
the Venetians would purchase the island of Crete after
forces of the Fourth Crusade conquered the Byzantine center
Cretans made several failed attempts to liberate their island during the Venetian period of 1204-1669. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Crete became a haven for Byzantine artists and scholars. During this time, the notable painter “El Greco” was born in Crete, and art and science flourished. As the Venetian powers began to wane, the Ottoman Empire would gain control over Crete and continually resist the many attempted Cretan revolutions. Turkish occupation would slowly dissolve starting around 1878, and Crete would enter a period of autonomy, finally uniting with Greece in 1913. During the Second World War, Crete would suffer destruction to some of its villages during the Battle of Crete in May of 1941.
The island of Crete really started to develop into a tourist destination in the 1970"s, and tourism began to rival farming as a main part of the economy. Along the north coast, you’ll find Crete’s largest cities in Heraklion, Chania and Rethymnon. Chania is also known as Hania, and it has managed to retain a good amount of its old-world charm with an offering of buildings and homes dating back to the Venetian and Turkish eras. Beautiful Crete beaches can be found near Chania, and really all over the island Crete beach options are numerous. Some beaches remain rather isolated and secluded, especially in the south, while plenty of Crete beaches offer more crowds and services. Due to the seclusion of some of the southern beaches, naturist Crete beaches are found primarily on the southern coast of the island, with Red Beach among the most notable. Visitors to Crete usually come primarily to sample some of the best beaches in Greece.
Visitors to Crete can arrive through the numerous flights and Greece ferry lines serving the island. The Crete ports at Chania and Heraklion welcome the bulk of the ferries coming primarily from Athens and other mainland ports, with ferries traveling to and from other Aegean islands as well. Chania and Heraklion also handle incoming flights to the island of Crete. Mainland flights out of Athens and Thessaloniki and a number of charter flights from various European cities offer regular service to Crete Greece, primarily in the summer. Once you arrive in Crete, you’ll find Crete hotels and vacation rentals to fit every budget, as well as all types of restaurants offering their local variations on Greek food. You’ll arguably fall equally in love with the gyros and souvlaki as much as you will with the people and beaches on the island of Crete.